Interview with Bernadette McDonald.

Bernadette McDonald A.O.E.

Bernadette McDonald was the founder and former Vice President of the Mountain Culture Division at The Banff Centre.

She was Director of the Banff Mountain Film Festival for almost 20 years, and was founding Director of the Banff Mountain Book Festival. She is a founding member of the International Alliance for Mountain Film and was an invited speaker at the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2001 to launch International Year of Mountains.

In 2006 she was presented the prestigious King Albert award from Switzerland for her contribution to the global mountain community. In 2007 she was given the Summit of Excellence Award for her ongoing work in the mountain community. In 2009 she was given the Alberta Order of Excellence, the highest non-military award given by the Province of Alberta. In 2010 she was named an honorary member of the Himalayan Club of India.

She is the co-editor of Voices From the Summit: The World’s Great Mountaineers on the Future of Climbing, editor of Extreme Landscape, and co-editor of Whose Water Is It, all published by National Geographic Books.
She is author of I’ll Call You in Kathmandu: the Elizabeth Hawley Story, published by The Mountaineers Books in 2005 and subsequently translated and published in Germany and Italy.
Her book, Brotherhood of the Rope, was published in 2007 by The Mountaineers Books and was short-listed for the Boardman-Tasker Prize for mountain literature in England.
Her biography of the Slovenian alpinist, Tomaž Humar, was published in 2008 by Random House, England and subsequently in Canada, the United States, Slovenia and Italy. Both Brotherhood of the Rope and Tomaz Humar won the Kekoo Naorobi Award for mountain literature in subsequent years. She edited Inspiring Creativity in 2008, published by The Banff Centre Press.

Bernadette has degrees in English Literature and Music, with specialization in performance and analytical theory. She studied at The Banff Centre with her ensemble, Fusion 5 and has performed throughout Europe and North America.

Bernadette is past chair of the board of trustees for the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, and is a member of the international advisory committee for National Geographic’s Expedition Council.

Interview with Bernadette MacDonald – Jerzy Porębski for

1. What is mountain culture?

Mountain culture is a phrase that reflects a global community that has common values and interests, and a passion for a landscape that inspires them. That community is concerned about issues around mountains, such as water and threatened cultures, and they are also active participants in mountain landscapes, whether they make films, climb mountains, write books or simply look.

2. What is the role of mountain culture in the creation by Banff Center?

The role of The Banff Centre for Mountain Culture has always been to promote the understanding and appreciation of mountain places by creating opportunities for people to share and find inspiration in mountain experiences, ideas, and visions.
Without which mountain can not be? Sorry, don’t understand the question.

3. The most inportant day of your life?

Whoa!!! There are too many. But in the context of this questionaire, I would have to say that it was the first night I spent in the mountains. I was eleven years old and my family was traveling from the flat prairie landscape of Saskatchewan where I grew up to British Columbia to visit the extended family for Christmas. We spent the night in Banff and that night, my dad and I went for a walk. It was a clear night and the mountains were etched clearly against a starry sky. It had recently stormed and the village was covered with a blanket of soft fluffy snow. The spruce forest was draped in it, and the feeling of enclosure, of embracing, of coziness in that valley, which I later learned was the Bow Valley, impressed me so much that I vowed to one day make my life in the mountains. I didn’t know it would be in the same village!

4. What will you do for the next 20 years?

Write books about mountains, climb and hike and ski and paddle through them and meet inspired mountain people.

5. What films and books do you think the most important for mountain culture?

There really are too many to say. I would have to say that The Retreat is one of my favorite mountain films, along with Solitary Journey. As for books, I still admire the writings of Tilman as well as Learning to Breathe by Andy Cave. But there are many more.

6. What are the successses of your book about Tomaz Humar?

I’m not sure how to measure success but I guess I’m happy that it’s still in print, that it has been published now in five countries and three languages and that it won the Himalayan Club’s mountain literary award, called the Kekoo Naoroji Award. Mostly, I am happy when people call, email or Facebook me about having read it and learned something.

7. Over what you work now?

I’m working on the biggest project yet – a book about Polish Himalayan climbing from the 70’s to the 90’s. I’ve always admired that group of people and I’m learning so much about how they functioned within a very difficult system, what motivated them and why they were the best in the world. It will be published in 2011.

8. What about polish climbing in the world? Man? Woman? Winter? And who was or is important?

Polish Himalayan climbers were the best in the world for 20 years. There is so much depth in that group of people that it’s almost impossible to say who was the best or most important. From all of my research thus far, I would have to say that Voytek Kurtyka was the most influential on an international basis, particularly for the next generation. I’ve talked to many contemporary climbers, like Steve House, who say that Voytek’s style and attitude influenced them fundamentally. As for women, there is no question that Wanda Rutkiewicz remains an iconic figure. There is still no one like her, despite the fact that there are three or four women nearing the 14X8000 metre mark. I think that every one of them would agree. Wanda was way ahead of her time. Jerzy Kukuczka was important in other ways. He proved that you could be a sportsman – with dignity and integrity. His race with Messner was so different because of the way in which he climbed and the kinds of routes he tackled. A decent human being, he was probably the most important Polish climber from that era because of the huge inspirational impact he had on Polish people. He reminds me of Tomaz Humar in that respect…a real national hero. But there are others: Zawada was such a charismatic leader and he inspired that generation to be the very best they could be, as well as making their mark on Himalayan history by tackling the highest mountains in the world in winter. And Krzysztof Wielicki proved that you could be, not only an amazing sportsman, but more and more, a serious leader. His story is still not done. And still other…Artur Hazjer, Janusz Majer, so many amazing climbers.

9. In which countries of the world mountain culture is of geat significance?

It is hugely important in Slovenia and Switzerland and France. Italy also has a thriving mountain culture, partly due to the wonderful Museo della Montagna in Torino. But the other three countries have a country-wide awareness of their mountain heritage, and that is amazing to witness. From what I’ve seen in Poland, awareness of mountain culture is growing exponentially, and this is appropriate since the mountain history and tradition is so strong.

10. What is development Mountain Film Festivals and Alliance of mountain film Festiwals?

There have been mountain film festivals for a long time, but when we started the Alliance ten years ago, it represented a formal recognition of the need to support and nurture this genre, not just through festivals, but through tours and network broadcasting and education. Since then, mountain film festivals have flourished world wide. Our Banff tour exploded into hundreds and hundreds of screenings and perhaps most importantly, a number of festivals took it upon themselves to create educational programs for aspiring mountain filmmakers. I think this was one of the most important developments.

* Source: –

* Related Links:

Mountain festival

Elizabeth Hawley Biography – I’LL CALL YOU IN KATHMANDU.

International Alliance for Mountain Film.

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  1. Is it possible to get your email.add. Please !

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